The bottlebrush buckeye is a member of the soapberry family, which used to be the horse-chestnut family. Its genus name, Aesculus, is the same as that for the common American horse-chestnut. This shrub (shrubs are woody and have multiple stems, whereas trees are also woody but have only one stem) is native to the southeastern United States.
This shrub can be very aggressive and will take over an area 12’ to 15’ in diameter rather quickly — over about 3 to 5 years.
The bottlebrush buckeye can achieve a height of 8’ to 15’ in height and a diameter 12’ to 15’. It has white flowers that look a bit like a bottlebrush and are about 12” long between June and July. They also include red anthers that offset the white petals.
Mid-summer blooms on a mature shrub can be rather remarkable. After flowering, the plant gives way to glossy, inedible, pear-shaped nuts (buckeyes) encased in husks. However, these nuts are rarely produced in cultivation in the northern parts of this shrub's growing range. These nuts should NEVER be eaten by humans.
The foliage turns yellow in autumn.
The bottlebrush buckeye successfully grows in hardiness zones 4-8. Since Chattanooga is located in zone 7, it is a good candidate for our area.
This species does well in full sun to partial shade areas. It needs moderate moisture and is rather low in its maintenance needs. It prefers moist, loamy soils, and is intolerant of drought conditions. It would need to be watered during a drought at least for the first few years until the root system is fully established.
The bottlebrush buckeye is best planted as a specimen with plenty of space around it. It can also be used as a hedge with light pruning, as a screen to block out otherwise visible areas of the yard, or as a massing area to accent part of the yard.
The bottlebrush buckeye attracts butterflies.
This species can develop leaf scorch in sunny locations.
This species has no serious disease or insect problems.
About the Author
Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.
Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!